The Sound Of Philadelphia


As it is with any country, state and city, there seems to be certain “things” that they're infamous for in the way of being almost like a creative womb; giving birth to their cultural DNA and spirit.

Besides food, Philadelphia is also known for its birth of MUSIC. Many musicians and vocal artists hail from this city.

People such as: Frankie Avalon, Jill Scott, Mario Lanza, Patti Labelle, The Roots, Teddy Pendergrass, Hall & Oats, The Stylistics, and Billie Holiday.

There are a lot of different music genres that come out of Philadelphia, but for me personally, I’m most in tuned and connected to the sound of soul. I think I’m actually a black man living inside a white man because I feel soul music on such a deep cellular level that I can hardly contain myself whenever I hear it without wanting to move and groove. And trust me, I very often DON’T contain myself by snapping my fingers, moving my hips, and singing along with the lyrics; not caring who the hell is watching me. I even dance inside Trader Joe’s whenever I happen to go grocery shopping on the night they play Motown music. You haven't lived until you've seen me perform "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Diana Ross in the produce section of Trader Joe's, while singing into a cucumber.

If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I was most definitely a brotha’or sistah’ in MANY lifetimes.

One of the cool things about living in Philadelphia, like it is in many cities, are the street musicians who sing or play musical instruments and share their talents with the world.

Today, I would like to share some photographs of street musicians I captured over the past 4-5 months. And I present them with great joy and pride because they make living in this city special, by contributing their sound, magic and sparkle!

Please enjoy…


This gentleman is perhaps my favorite because he's got such a beautiful spirit. I wish I had a video clip to share, so that you could hear and see this guy in action. Not only does he have an INCREDIBLE voice, but it's the way he performs the songs that captures you because he sings with his whole heart and soul. Mark my words, one of these days this talented man will have a recording contract because he's THAT special.




This gentleman can often be seen on Walnut Street, playing is his guitar. He's got it connected to a small amp which gives the guitar a sound that's almost hypnotic. Whenever I spot him, I will stop and listen because his music is so beautifully alluring!


I saw this young man several weeks ago, playing his violin (which is my favorite musical instrument) and had to get a photograph. I think he must be a student at one of the music schools here in Philly. VERY talented young man. And I had never seen a black violin before, so it made me even more intrigued to stop and listen.


I spotted this gentleman many, many months ago, while I was walking through the courtyard in City Hall. What I loved about this guy and his music was that he played his flute with such enjoyment; creating a happy and uplifting feeling for those of us around him.


These guys are AWESOME! I saw them back at the beginning of Spring, performing next to The Reading Terminal Farmer's Market. I sat down on a bench across the street while sipping a coffee and totally enjoyed them. What I admired about these guys was how they played off each other and ad libbed as they went along.


I leave you with a short clip. *Notice the guy playing the tambourine, he's delightful!

Have a JAMMIN Monday, y'all!

49 comments

  1. Hi Ron, the first guy looked as if he was putting his heart and soul into his singing. I love listening to street musicians and wish they could all get famous. Only two that I've seen made it but their fame was more localised. I've noticed more and more are coming into my area to sing and earn a bit of money so shopping now is really enjoyable. I guess there are more in the city but I never go there now. Nice post, my friend, it quite cheered me up.

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  2. This is crazy as I've been wanting to do a post on my hometown music. Some day!

    The flute is a surprise. I've not seen anyone play one on the street. Very cool! I love tambourine man, too. But Ron, are you sure the guitar player is a man? If so, I want his hair!

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  3. i absolutely love street performers, especially the ones who use pails as drums. that's talent. oh any almost anyone with a guitar is worthy of worship.

    "I think I’m actually a black man living inside a white man because I feel soul music on such a deep cellular level that I can hardly contain myself"


    heheheh. i sometimes feel the same way, but black on black.

    ha. you scared me for a minute ron. just between us, i said if there's a photo of ron in black face at the bottom of this post, i'ma hafta cut him. hehehehe. nah, i knew you wouldn't but it did truthfully cross my mind.



    enjoy the day, friend.

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  4. "This is crazy as I've been wanting to do a post on my hometown music. Some day!"

    I would LOVE see a post about that, Bijoux, so I do hope you share it :)

    "The flute is a surprise. I've not seen anyone play one on the street. Very cool!"

    Me too, that was the first time I had ever seen someone playing to the flute on the street. VERY cool, indeed!

    " But Ron, are you sure the guitar player is a man? If so, I want his hair!"



    HA! Yes, it is a man and I agree....isn't his hair beautiful? I haven't seen him lately on Walnut Street, but I think it may be because it's been very hot and rainy the past couple of days.


    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Have a super week!


    X

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  5. Hey there Shae!

    "I went in to Boston with my bf on Sat and I saw a musician playing in the Subway station. I couldn't help but stop and listen. It is amazing how talented some of these street performers are!"



    Isn't that the BEST? Street performers to me add a 'special touch' to a city. And yes, some of these people blow me away with their talent!


    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Have a SUPER week!


    X

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  6. Rob LenihanJuly 14, 2014

    Wow, Ron, this post has got rhythm!


    I love street musicians! Some of these people are so incredibly talented! I've seen some fabulous people on the subways. These photos really capture the essence of what street musicians are all about. And the video is so cool--these guys just love making music!



    Now where's that video of you singing "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" into a cucumber?!?


    Hope you hit all the high notes this week, buddy! Take care!

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  7. Helloooooooo there Val!

    "i absolutely love street performers, especially the ones who use pails as drums. that's talent. oh any almost anyone with a guitar is worthy of worship."

    Yes! In fact, there's a guy here in Philly who drums, using plastic pails and steel lids to trash cans and it's AWESOME! The rhythum that he creates blows me away!

    "ha. you scared me for a minute ron. just between us, i said if there's a photo of ron in black face at the bottom of this post, i'ma hafta cut him. hehehehe. nah, i knew you wouldn't but it did truthfully cross my mind."



    No, my friend, I would never do that :) In all sincerity, I do feel SOUL music within my heart and soul....and I LOVE it!!!!!!!!!!!



    Much thanks for stopping by, girl. Have a spectacular week!

    X

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  8. Suzi, you shared perfectly what I feel about street musicians....

    "There is something about being outside and music floating through the air that puts a lift in everyone's step!"



    Absolutely!


    And they brighten everyone's day!


    Have a super Monday, my friend, and thank you for stopping by!

    X

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  9. Hola Denise!

    "This is one of the things I miss about living close to a city, all the creative people who share their talents on the streets - the artists, musicians, dancers and singers."

    Yes, that's one of the things I really enjoy about living in a city.

    "And I could tell from the photographs you shared of the first gentleman that he sings with his whole heart and soul."

    And he does. He's a very special talent!

    "I didn't know Jill Scott was from Philadelphia. What a great voice she has!"



    Yes, Jill Scott is from Philly. LOVE her voice!


    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Have a wonderful week too!


    X

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  10. "You haven't lived until you've seen me perform "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Diana Ross in the produce section of Trader Joe's, while singing into a cucumber." ROFLMAO


    Ron, I think I would pay money to see that!


    I'm a big fan of soul music too. Blues and jazz as well, which is why I enjoyed the sax player in the video. Jammin!


    Great photos you snapped, dude! Love the one of the guy playing the guitar. I can almost hear him.

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  11. Mark PetruskaJuly 14, 2014

    And of course, don't forget American Bandstand. I know it moved to Los Angeles in the 60s, but I will always associate it with Philadelphia. And Will Smith is from Philly. Also, "Philadelphia Freedom" is one of my favorite Elton John songs. Philly rocks! Or should I say, Philly's got soul.


    You're right. Every city has street performers. Portland is no exception. There are some pretty colorful characters out there! The street performers are pretty colorful, too....

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  12. Ron, this reminds me SO MUCH of New Orleans! Street musicians there, too, set up "shop" along the streets -- with or without a cup for donations -- and entertain the crowds every single day. Isn't it amazing how very talented some of these guys and gals are?!

    The mental image of you groovin' to Motown music in Trader Joe's (with a cuke mike, no less!) will keep me smiling all morning!

    Happy Monday, my friend!

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  13. Hiya Matt!

    "Ron, I think I would pay money to see that!"

    HAHAHAHAHAHA! Well, you wouldn't have to pay money for it, just stop by Trader Joe's in Philly on the night they play Motown and you can see me for FREE!

    " Blues and jazz as well, which is why I enjoyed the sax player in the video. Jammin!"

    Me too, love blues and jazz as well! Isn't the sax player jammin HOT?

    The gentleman playing the guitar is truly awesome because the amp he uses makes the sound so hypnotic and alluring. It's just beautiful!

    Thanks so much for stopping by, buddy. Have a most excellent week!

    X

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  14. Street music... delightful! Always stop to watch and listen for a few minutes. We were at a little village of shops not too long ago and there was a Drum Circle going on. Magical!
    Thanks for the sample. They sure are good. I like the one guy's shirt. Gewürztraminer is my favorite white wine! ;)
    Have a great week.

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  15. Coming from NYC street music was the be-all and end-all - on every corner, sometimes in the middle of the block as well, not to mention the subways. We never noticed that many street musicians when we lived in Philly but there was an old man who played the sax in the area around S.Broad and Walnut who was brilliant. When we were in that area we would go looking for him. Lordy I love me a good sax man.

    (and you do not want to know what the kids in NYC called Fabian, Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydell back in the day...teenagers are cruel.)

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  16. Fantabulous shots! It certainly looks like a city with a lot of *soul*! We have street musicians from time to time but probably not of the caliber that you all have. I had no idea all those musicians hail from Philly. And in addition to music….Philadelphia makes a great Philly sandwich! One of my favorite meals. :-) Hope your week is jamming' as well.

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  17. Love this! I can just picture you gettin' down at Trader Joe's! LOL!
    You know, even though we have the Rock Hall here, you don't see many (if any) street musicians. The only one that comes to mind is a man who has been playing the sax on the streets of the theater district and the sporting arenas for 20 years. Everyone knows the Sax Man! They just made documentary about his life. I guess his father used to play with Robert Lockwood, Jr.

    You might be interested in seeing this. http://www.saxmanmovie.com/

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  18. "We never noticed that many street musicians when we lived in Philly but there was an old man who played the sax in the area around S.Broad and Walnut who was brilliant. When we were in that area we would go looking for him. Lordy I love me a good sax man."

    OMG Grace, I cannot believe you mentioned that man because if it's the same man I'm thinking about, yes, he is STILL here and plays his sax on Broad and Walnut Street, I kid you not. I haven't seen him in quite a while, but I wonder if it's the same man you're referring to.

    Don't ya love the sound of a sax?

    "(and you do not want to know what the kids in NYC called Fabian, Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydell back in the day...teenagers are cruel.)"



    Yup...I can just imagine what they called them. And you're right, some teenagers can be cruel.


    Thanks a bunch for stopping by and have a supa' week!

    X

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  19. Hiya Mary!

    ".We were at a little village of shops not too long ago and there was a Drum Circle going on. Magical!"

    I LOVE the sound of a Drum Circle. I used to go one when I was still living in Orlando, Florida. They held it at a metaphysical bookstore, outside in the backyard. The store is called, The Spiral Circle.

    "Gewürztraminer is my favorite white wine!"


    Thank you so much for mentioning that because I had no idea what that meant on his shirt!?!


    Have a super week, neighbor. And thanks for stopping by!


    X

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  20. "And of course, don't forget American Bandstand. I know it moved to Los Angeles in the 60s, but I will always associate it with Philadelphia."

    Mark, you are a MIND READER because I almost mentioned that bit of music trivial in this post. And you're right, American Bandstand was from Philadelphia. A few years ago, I was taking the train into Center City and someone I was with told me to look out the window as we passed a building. And she informed me that American Bandstand was filmed there!

    " And Will Smith is from Philly. Also, "Philadelphia Freedom" is one of my favorite Elton John songs. Philly rocks! Or should I say, Philly's got soul."

    Yup to all of those! Don't ya love Will Smith? Great actor!

    "Portland is no exception. There are some pretty colorful characters out there! The street performers are pretty colorful, too...."



    Yes, I remember you sharing some photos on your blog a few years ago on the street performers in Portland. What a FUN place Portland looks like!


    Thanks so much for stopping by, buddy. Have jammin week!


    X to you and Tara!

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  21. Hiya Debbie!

    "Ron, this reminds me SO MUCH of New Orleans!"

    You know, I have never been to New Orleans, however, I've seen many photographs of the city (through other bloggers who have posted about it) and it looks like such an awesome and fun place!

    Yup, it's amazing how VERY talented some of these guys and gals are.

    "The mental image of you groovin' to Motown music in Trader Joe's (with a cuke mike, no less!) will keep me smiling all morning!"



    I make a faaaaaaaabulous Diana Ross - HA!


    Happy Monday, my friend. And MUCH thanks for stopping by! Have a super week!

    X

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  22. Thank you, Lisa :) I have been taking these photographs over the past 4-5 months and finally decided to finally post them, along with some of the music history from Philly.

    "I had no idea all those musicians hail from Philly."

    You know, I had always thought that Billie Holiday was from Baltimore, however, after watching a documentary on her life I found out that she was actually born here, but later moved to Baltimore. I loved Billie Holiday!

    "Philadelphia makes a great Philly sandwich! One of my favorite meals."



    Yes, Philly is SO about the food!


    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Have a JAMMIN week!


    X

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  23. Ron, what a great post! And you grabbed me within your first sentence. From all the photographs you've shared of Philadelphia and from how you've described it it seems like such an enjoyable and picturesque city, rich in history.



    I love whenever you post photos with people in them and give us some narrative because it feels as if we're there. Loved the video clip of the guys jammin! That guy rocks the sax!


    The fourth photo down of the guy playing the guitar is such a beautifully composed picture.


    Thank you for sharing your city with us, Ron!

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  24. Hey ho Robert!

    "it seems like such an enjoyable and picturesque city, rich in history."

    Yes, that's probably one of my favorite things about Philadelphia, the rich history and the beautiful architecture.

    I so enjoy taking photographs with people in them because they seem to make the picture more active and alive, by telling a story. And when you live in a city there are people everywhere, so you can really get some great shots of people in action.

    Isn't the guy playing the sax in the video ROCKIN? And I also love the guy playing tambourine because he looks like he's having the time of his life!


    Thank you. I was standing on the other side of the street when I took that photograph of the guy playing his guitar. I think I took maybe 3-4 pictures, but I liked this one the most.

    MUCH thanks for stopping by, buddy. Have a jammin week!

    X

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  25. I wanna go to Trader Joe's.....JUST for watching that experience with you and the cucumber. ROFL Oh my.....perhaps there was a better way to say that...LOL
    You're such a lucky fella to be surrounded by all that talent and energy. Seriously--any time we have music in the park I get excited, even though it's not the same as yours, it's a chance to get involved in other people's energy and just go with it! I love it. Himself wants me to sit down. LOL I suppose that's the 'polite' way to listen to music, but c'mon...music is meant for celebration! And he laughs when I pull him to his feet and do a bit of wiggling around. Silly man........gotta get in the FEEL of the rythmn! And he's a lover of jazz--so any time we can get to the local jazz fests, we're there. Except that's a distant memory cuz it's been almost 2 YEARS since we went. *sigh* Gotta make the effort.....we always enjoy it when we do.
    Thanks for the awesome photos. I love the black fiddle (that's what we call 'em 'round these parts....LOL) and I'd love to hear him play--I love a good fiddle!

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  26. Hey there Lady Lilth...welcome and thank you for stopping by!


    Yes, that's one of the things I really enjoy about living in a city, the talent you so often spot on the streets. It's awesome!


    Have a great week. Nice to meet you!

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  27. Hiya Mel!

    "I wanna go to Trader Joe's.....JUST for watching that experience with you and the cucumber. ROFL Oh my.....perhaps there was a better way to say that...LOL

    HAHAHAHAHA! You can watch me any night they play Motown. I'll be in produce section of Trader Joe's. And I'll be the guy the holding the cucumber - HA!

    "Seriously--any time we have music in the park I get excited, even though it's not the same as yours, it's a chance to get involved in other people's energy and just go with it! I love it.'

    Yes, I agree! They will often (during the spring, summer and fall months) have music (and concerts) in the parks here. In fact, they just had one on the 4th of July.

    " And he's a lover of jazz--so any time we can get to the local jazz fests, we're there."

    Please tell Himself I said, Amen on the jazz! I like soul, blues AND jazz!

    " I love the black fiddle (that's what we call 'em 'round these parts....LOL) and I'd love to hear him play--I love a good fiddle!"



    You know, Mel, I never even thought that it could be fiddle, so maybe you're right. I honestly can't tell the different between the two. I wonder if a fiddle is smaller than a violin?


    Much thanks for stopping by, dear lady. Hope you Monday was super! Have a jammin week!


    ((((((((((((((((((((((((((( You ))))))))))))))))))))))))))))


    X

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  28. Aren't street musicians wonderful? And I've been known to break into dance in situations like that. I've often thought I was kin to Baloo the Bear from Jungle Book - I head music and I just start moving. "Man, what a beat!"

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  29. Yes, they are! They add such a wonderfully rich bohemian feel to city life!

    "And I've been known to break into dance in situations like that. I've often thought I was kin to Baloo the Bear from Jungle Book - I head music and I just start moving. "Man, what a beat!"



    HAHAHAHAHA! You GO, girl! That MUST be a Libra thing, hu? My mother was the same way. She was just break out into dance if a song moved her!


    Thanks for stopping by and have a jammin week!


    X

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  30. Matt, isn't that clip a treasure? That song always reminds me of the sound and music of Philadelphia!

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  31. petra michelleJuly 16, 2014

    Oh this is fabulous, Ron! I can just picture you stirring some crazy along with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, in your afro of course! LOL
    Bonkers about the blues! Albeit I love all genres of music, in my collection you'd find Lady Day (just now learned she's originally from Philly, btw), Bessie Smith, Nina Simone, R.L. Burnside, Leadbelly, John Lee Hooker, BB King, Muddy Waters, and on and on. Ron, if you'd like to hear a gut wrenching song written by Ellington Jordan, it's I'd Rather Go Blind sung by Beth Hart. Amazing!
    And wholeheartedly agree that some of the sweetest sounds are by those creating it on the city streets, just for the love of it!
    Thank you for sharing your soul, Ron! :))

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  32. You can't beat a good bit of busking, I've discovered some good musicians who have gone on to play full gigs after starting out on the street.

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  33. Hey there Petra!

    "I can just picture you stirring some crazy along with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, in your afro of course! LOL"

    OMG...did you not LOVE that movie or what? They were such a GREAT team in that film. The scene in the jail cell is HILARIOUS!

    ".... in my collection you'd find Lady Day (just now learned she's originally from Philly, btw)."

    Yes, I only just learned that through a documentary I watched on her this year. I had always thought Lady Day was from Baltimore, but discovered that she was originally born in Philly and then later moved to Baltimore. One of my favorite films is "Lady Sings The Blues." Diana Ross did an amazing job with that role and I honestly feel that she deserved the Oscar that year.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjODPpMVrjY&index=1&list=PL3F8CE59_IsFxJQ7BzwmsoIB3CzF7gXKK

    "Ron, if you'd like to hear a gut wrenching song written by Ellington Jordan, it's I'd Rather Go Blind sung by Beth Hart. Amazing!"

    Thank you so much for sharing that because I will Google it some time today and check it out. Can't wait.

    Much thanks for stopping by, my friend. Have a super week!

    X

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  34. "You can't beat a good bit of busking....."


    You said it, Dale! And many of them I feel (such as the gentleman in the first set of photos) will go on to be very successful singers/musicians because they to have that 'special something.'


    Much thanks for stopping by and have a great rest of your week!
    X

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  35. petra michelleJuly 16, 2014

    Thank you for sharing "Good Morning Heartache", Ron. Such a beautiful song. And wholeheartedly agree, Diana Ross was wonderful in Lady Sings the Blues. What Billie Holiday went through. I cannot even imagine. She left quite a legacy.

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  36. You are so welcome, Petra. What I love about that scene is not only her singing, but her acting as well. Because you can really see what Billie Holiday was going through with her drug addiction. Diana Ross conveys it so brilliantly!

    "What Billie Holiday went through. I cannot even imagine. She left quite a legacy."



    Yes, she sure did.

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  37. WOW Ron... that video! I LOVE LOVE LOVE IT!! We don't have anything like that here. Every once in a while you see a lone musician but never people playing together. That is wonderful. The way he puts the tambourine under the foot of the drummer. So cool. And the flute picture... you know I was a music major and played the flute? So I especially loved that!



    My second favorite is the man with his arm out. Beautiful.

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  38. Hey there Katherine!

    Aren't those guys AWESOME!

    "The way he puts the tambourine under the foot of the drummer. So cool."'

    I know, isn't that the coolest? It was so wonderful to watch how they all played off each other and just ad libbed as they went along - going with the flow of the music.

    "And the flute picture... you know I was a music major and played the flute? So I especially loved that!"

    OMG...that's right, I forgot you played the flute!!!!

    The guy with his arm out is my favorite. VERY talented man!

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Hope you're having a super week!
    X

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  39. I love street musicians! It brightens my day, when I come across them. It was something we spoke about doing when we were young, but never did :) Lovely photos!

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  40. Maybe it was the time we visited, but when Tim and I came up, there were no musicians. Could be the Fourth of July festivities. I feel cheated! I loved watching them perform in New Orleans!

    Sorry for being late to the party again, but I kept refreshing the page from your last post thinking that you hadn't posted anything new. I'm such a dork sometimes!

    Happy. Thursday, darling!

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  41. "It brightens my day, when I come across them."



    Me as well, Babs :)


    When I was younger, I took piano lessons for a few years but didn't keep up with them, which I should have because it would have really helped with reading music when I later started performing in musical theater. Oh, and I also took clarinet lessons for a few months, but didn't care for it.


    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Have a great rest of your week!


    X to you and Mo!

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  42. Hey there Melissa!

    "Maybe it was the time we visited, but when Tim and I came up, there were no musicians. Could be the Fourth of July festivities. I feel cheated!"



    Yes, I think you're right about it being 4th of July and not seeing any street musicians. Although, I'm surprised we didn't see any down at Penn's Landing when you, Tim and I walked down there.


    Gosh, can you believe it's already been a YEAR since you came to Philly?!? In fact, it was a year this month. It was so great seeing you!!!!!


    Thanks so much for stopping by, girl. Have a great rest of your week!


    X

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  43. Everyone looks so happy to be doing what they love! Thank you for the video clip. I've never seen anyone play a tambourine on their arms, legs and feet!

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  44. "Everyone looks so happy to be doing what they love!"

    Yes, Jean, don't they? And I think that's one of the main reasons why I love watching street musicians - their PASSION.

    " I've never seen anyone play a tambourine on their arms, legs and feet!"

    Isn't that AWESOME???

    Much thanks for stopping by, my friend. Have a jammin weekend!

    X

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  45. BenzekneesJuly 27, 2014

    Having grown up in Winnipeg where you could go to a local bar & listen to the great sounds of performers who later became The Guess Who & a few others, I was spoiled for rock 'n roll music from a very early age. Philly looks great for these musicians!

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  46. "Having grown up in Winnipeg where you could go to a local bar & listen to the great sounds of performers who later became The Guess Who & a few others, I was spoiled for rock 'n roll music from a very early age."


    That's AWESOME!


    You know, the more I hear and read about Canada and it's cities, the more I understand why people who visit there say it's such a faaaaaaaabulous place!


    I truly have to visit Canada one of these days. I'm especially drawn to Quebec!


    Thanks so much for stopping by, Benze!

    X

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  47. AkelamaluJuly 29, 2014

    Great photos, I love street musicians, I also loved the Sound Of Philadelphia!

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  48. Thank you, Pearl :)


    And I know how much you and I share a love for the sound of MOTOWN!


    X

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